Pesto Crusted Salmon

This 30-minute Pesto Crusted Salmon recipe envelops salmon filets in a crispy pesto-infused panko crust. Baked until tender and flaky, it’s an impressive yet fuss-free meal that’s perfect for busy weeknight dinners.

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Side view of pesto crusted salmon on serving plate.

Looking for more mouthwatering salmon dinners? Try my Easy Sous Vide Salmon, Everything Bagel Salmon, and Honey Sriracha Salmon recipes or this collection of 45+ Salmon Recipes.

The only way to make salmon even more irresistible? Top it with basil pesto, lemon slices, and an herb panko crust, then bake until it’s golden and tender!

That’s exactly what this Pesto Crusted Salmon recipe is all about—taking gorgeous salmon filets and turning them into an extraordinary dinner. In every bite, you’ll experience a perfectly crunchy and herbaceous crust and moist, flaky salmon with well-balanced, just plain delicious flavors underneath.

And while salmon with a pesto crust looks like it came straight from a fine dining restaurant, it’s a fuss-free meal that lets the oven do most of the work. While you wait for the salmon goodness, you’re free to focus on the perfectly paired sides, like tender-crisp asparagus, a light quinoa salad, or even some garlic mashed potatoes. Regardless of your choice, rest assured you’ll experience a gourmet restaurant-worthy salmon dinner.

Ingredients 

Ingredients for pesto salmon labeled on counter.
  • Center-cut salmon filets – I prefer center-cut filets because they cook evenly and have a nice, tender texture. If you can’t find them, you can use any salmon filet instead but try to get them with the skin on for added flavor.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Panko breadcrumbs – The crispy, golden topping on the crusted salmon. If you don’t have panko, use regular breadcrumbs. Or, if you’re gluten-free, use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs.
  • Butter
  • Garlic powder
  • Lemon – Buy a couple of lemons for zesting and slicing. The lemon zest brightens the flavor of the panko topping, while the slices placed under the salmon during baking infuse it with a fresh, citrusy flavor.
  • Pesto – This flavorful Italian herb sauce pairs perfectly with salmon! Pesto is very easy to make at home using fresh basil, cheese, nuts, oil, and garlic. However, you can save lots of time by using store-bought pesto instead.
  • Finely chopped herbs – Any fresh herbs, like basil, dill, chives, parsley, or tarragon, make a delightful finishing touch. 

How to make pesto crusted salmon

Pat the salmon filets dry with a paper towel and season them with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir the panko, melted butter, garlic powder, and lemon zest together until well combined.

Place two lemon slices under each salmon filet in a baking dish, then spread a generous layer of pesto over top of each. Sprinkle the panko mixture on top, pressing it gently into the meat with your hands to make sure it sticks.

Bake the crusted salmon until the crust is golden and the fish flakes easily with a fork. Garnish with fresh herbs and enjoy!

Air fryer instructions

The air fryer is a fantastic option for getting that perfect crispy crust while keeping the salmon tender and moist through the middle. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Prepare the salmon as normal before placing it in a single layer on top of the lemon slices in an air fryer basket. 
  2. Air fry at 400ºF for 8 minutes or until the crust is golden and the fish flakes easily with a fork. 

For more helpful tips, head to my Air Fryer Salmon recipe. 

Tips and tricks

  • You’ll know the salmon is perfectly cooked when the meat flakes easily with a fork and has an opaque color. If you’re still unsure, use an instant-read thermometer; the thickest part of the filet should have an internal temperature of 145°F.
  • Take the salmon filets out of the fridge 15 minutes before baking so they can come down to room temperature and cook more evenly.
  • Don’t walk too far from the oven while the salmon is baking. It can quickly go from delicate and tender to overdone and dry.
Side view of baked pesto crusted salmon in baking dish.

Flavor variations

While basil pesto is a classic choice, feel free to get creative! Make this easy salmon dinner with my Arugula Pesto or Kale Pesto recipes, or with any of these fun pesto flavors:

  • Pistachio pesto – Prepare your pesto with pistachios instead of pine nuts for a subtly sweet and nutty flavor.
  • Roasted red pepper Blend roasted red peppers into your pesto for a smoky-sweet variation.
  • Sun-dried tomato pesto Add a rich, tangy flavor with sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Spinach and walnut pesto – Substitute spinach for basil and walnuts for pine nuts for a nutrient-packed, earthy flavor. 

Serving suggestions

Enjoy your pesto-crusted salmon with any of these sides for a well-rounded meal:

Bite taken out of piece of pesto crusted salmon.

FAQs

Can I bake veggies alongside the salmon?  

Sure! I’d recommend using chopped veggies that will take about 15 minutes to tenderize, just like the salmon. Cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, and asparagus are all great options! Lay them in the same pan as the salmon if it’s big enough or roast the veggies on a separate sheet pan.

Can I use frozen salmon filets?

Yes. Just thaw the salmon filets in the refrigerator before starting the recipe. 

How do I make pesto without nuts?

Traditional pesto recipes are made with pine nuts, but you can easily omit these from a homemade version, replace them with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, or buy a nut-free pesto instead.

Storing

I recommend serving the crusted salmon right away to enjoy its buttery texture, crispy crust, and herbaceous flavor to the fullest. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

To reheat, place the salmon in a baking dish and warm it in a 350ºF oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.

Wine pairings for pesto crusted salmon 

Make the most of your dining experience with a perfectly paired glass of crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. If you’re celebrating something special, you can’t go wrong with Prosecco or Champagne!

Or, check out these 8+ wine pairings for salmon.

Side view of pesto topped salmon.

More delicious dinner recipes with pesto

​​​​Did you make this baked salmon with a pesto crust?

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Side view of pesto crusted salmon on serving plate.

Pesto Crusted Salmon

This 30-minute Pesto Crusted Salmon recipe envelops salmon filets in a crispy pesto-infused panko crust. Baked until tender and flaky, it’s an impressive yet fuss-free meal that’s perfect for busy weeknight dinners.
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

  • 4 6-ounce pieces center-cut salmon filets
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons butter (melted)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 lemon (zested and thinly sliced)
  • cup pesto (homemade or store bought)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (basil, dill, parsley, tarragon, etc.)
  • Kosher salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 400-degrees F.
  • Pat salmon dry and season with salt and pepper.
  • In a medium bowl, add the panko, melted butter, garlic powder, and lemon zest. Stir to combine.
  • Arrange two lemon slices under each salmon filet and place in a baking dish. Top each piece with a thick layer of pesto. Sprinkle the panko mixture on top of the pesto and press to coat.
  • Bake the salmon for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fish flakes easily. The fish is fully cooked when an instant thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish reads 145℉.
  • Sprinkle with the fresh herbs and enjoy.
Did you make this recipe?Mention @platingsandpairings or tag #platingsandpairings!

Equipment

Nutrition

Calories: 170kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 294mg | Potassium: 63mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 598IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 1mg

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